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Balloon animal sculptures to be moved out of Thunder Bay waterfront

Set of 10 granite sculptures have been repeatedly damaged in the six years since their installation at the city's waterfront.
Artist Nadine Stefan works on repairing a sculpture from the Naturally Inflated public art installation in this 2012 photograph. The sculptures have been repeatedly damaged since their installation at the waterfront in 2011. ( file photograph)

THUNDER BAY – A series of sculptures designed to appear like balloon animals, a frequent target for vandals, will be permanently relocated away from the waterfront.

Naturally Inflated, a public art project consisting of 10 individual granite sculptures, was originally installed within Prince Arthur’s Landing in 2011 near the Tai Chi Park at a cost of about $95,000. Repeated acts of vandalism prompted city officials to move the sculptures to a higher visibility area along the roadway across from the condominiums but they have continued to sustain damage.

Leah Prentice, the city's manager of cultural development and events, recreation and culture, informed city council on Monday night the sculptures will need to be repaired and eventually moved to another site.

“At this point, there are no current locations at the waterfront that would be feasible. Any location that currently exists would have the same challenges that the current location does,” Prentice said.

“We would still be looking at the same considerations in terms of the feasibility of the complete repair and cost to reinstall in a manner that would prevent public access.”

The sculptures were designed to be appealing to children and the scale encourages physical interaction with the sculptures, according to the memo presented to council. The document also notes the majority of the sculptures are “substantially damaged” and “it has also become apparent that the original intention of public interaction with the sculptures is no longer possible.”

Prentice said it would not be cost effective to repair the sculptures to structural engineer specifications and a physical barrier like a fence would be required to keep them at the waterfront.

City administration has been exploring potential locations for the sculptures to be located on a display-only basis for public viewing, with preliminary discussions taking place with officials from the Thunder Bay International Airport and the Thunder Bay Art Gallery.

No decisions have been made on their next location, Prentice said.

“Certainly the (public art) committee is willing to accept other suggestions for consideration,” Prentice said. “The two potential locations noted in the report are the preferred locations the committee has identified at this point. However, neither of those are formally confirmed at this point either. Pending the actual number of sculptures available and confirmed interest, there may be other opportunities available.”


Matt Vis

About the Author: Matt Vis

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Matt is honoured to tell the stories of his hometown.
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